The Development and Motivation of Angelina Jolie


Human development includes every change that happens during the course of human life. Motivation is what drives a person to behave in a certain manner. I will discuss Angelina Jolie’s human development from the standpoint of Erik Erikson’s Theory of Psychosocial Development, and her moral development from the stance of Lawrence Kohlberg’s Theory of Moral Development. Then I will use Abraham Maslow’s Theory of Need Fulfillment, and David McClelland’s Human Motivation Theory to talk about Angelina’s drives and needs.


Angelina Jolie was born to parents Jon Voight and Marcheline Bertrand in 1975. During her Infancy stage of life, Angelina’s parents adored her. Angelina was close to her mother and father during this time. Her parents were responsive to Angelina, her basic needs were met, and her environments were trustworthy. She appeared to be a Securely Attached child during the first year of her life, her eyes were bright and happy at the sight of her mother or father, and she explored independently. Angelina solved the conflict between Trust vs. Mistrust (Editorial Board, 2011) during this stage of development.

Unfortunately, Angelina’s father, Jon was interested in many women. A flourishing actor himself, the gleam of Hollywood motivated his behavior to the point of an affair with actress, Stacey Pickren. Angelina’s mother, Marcheline’s emotions spiraled out of control as a result. She was extremely hurt and angered by this affair. Angelina looked so much like her father that Marcheline directed her anger toward Angelina. When Angelina was one-year-old, during her Toddlerhood stage of life, she was moved to a separate apartment from her mother where she was cared for by a group of nannies until she was three years old. She was completely abandoned by her mother for two years. Her parents were uninvolved with her during this time. Therefore, the nurture aspect that would come from a parent’s encouragement and excitement was not there for Angelina at this stage. Consequently, Angelina did not resolve the conflict between Autonomy vs. Shame and Doubt. She did not develop the confidence she needed to facilitate coping mechanisms that would allow her to deal with situations later in her life that may require self-control or independence.

Although Angelina’s mother came back into her life at age three, over the next fifteen years of Angelina’s life brought on more traumas with her father being absent much from her daily routines. The older she became, she realized he left for another woman, and in Angelina’s mind he left her too, another sense of abandonment, and now by both parents. This caused each stage of Erikson’s theory to struggle with regard to resolve. By Angelina’s early Adolescence stage, her mother allowed Angelina’s boyfriend to move in with them, sharing the same bed with her at age 14. Marcheline acted as the permissive parent during such a crucial time of Angelina’s life. Angelina did not resolve the conflict during the stage of Adolescence either, and because of this, her behaviors through adulthood were sporadic, risky, and her life seemed out of control. She was depressed and angry early on in her childhood, and self-mutilated by cutting herself. She could not bond with people in relationships and has said publicly even in her Young Adulthood stage of life that her only way of connecting with someone was by cutting each other. She always had problems with hugging people, including her own mother.

Angelina’s moral development appeared to be delayed as a result of her unresolved stages during critically developmental years. Using Lawrence Kohlberg’s Theory of Moral Development Angelina made her decisions at the Level 1: Preconventional Morality Stage 2. She made decisions based on individual needs. This was her behavior on into her later Young Adulthood years. In her early 30’s she adopted her first child. Not long after, she and Brad Pitt became an item and quickly became the parents to six children. Her life changed drastically for the better once she became a mother.

According to Abraham Maslow’s Theory of Need Fulfillment, there are five levels of needs that must be met in order of their significance (MindTools). One need cannot be met without meeting the prior need. Angelina’s needs were met in the first level of Physiological Needs. Her basic needs were always met in her life. Her second level of Safety Needs were also met according to Maslow’s work. However, the third level of Love and Belonging, and fourth level of Esteem were not met during Angelina’s developmental years. The fifth level of Self Actualization cannot be met until prior levels are resolved.

David McClelland’s Human Motivation Theory says that our dominant motivator is shaped as a result of our environments. Angelina meets all of the characteristics of the person who is motivated by achievement. This motivating factor was the force which caused her to be so successful in her life.

The life lessons I take away from analyzing the way Angelina handled her drives and needs is that your childhood does not determine your destiny. While it took her years to get where she is today, she did not let her childhood stop her. It is inspiring when a person can overcome their sufferings in a positive manner. Although her needs were not met during very important developmental times of her life, Angelina pushed on and is known currently as the highest paid female actor in Hollywood.


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